The Ministry of Justice has plans for a £1 billion modernisation programme for the courts. This will streamline and simplify processes using technology, helping those who work in the courts and those who use them.
Will the Minister give an assessment of the Department’s recent work in improving the performance of the alternative dispute resolution scheme, which is intended to help consumers resolve disputes with traders but also to ease the volume of work in the courtroom?
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance and value of alternative dispute resolutions. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service already runs a small claims mediation service to help parties resolve claims worth under £10,000 before a hearing. We are also working to offer an online mediation service for those who begin their claims online.
Under this Government hundreds of courts have closed, and I now see that Fleetwood court is on the latest consultation list. How do these court closures contribute to a positive experience for “those who work in the courts and those who use them”?
Last year, nationally, court and tribunal services were used at only 58% of their available hearing capacity. Moreover, as I have outlined, we are planning to spend £1 billion on modernising the courts service by using technology to put some processes online and employ video evidence more effectively. In those circumstances, it is appropriate to consider the best use of the money that we spend on the legal services system, as we are doing through a consultation that will include the hon. Lady’s local magistrates court. We will listen closely. It is important to remember, however, that all the money saved through any court closures will be put back into the justice system, making sure that it works effectively for everybody in it.